wears the trousers magazine

wears the trousers albums of the decade #75-51

part one part threepart four

Here’s the second part of our albums of the decade countdown, running from #75–51.

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Róisín Murphy

[EMI, 2007]

Of all the critical droolfests that failed to ignite on the commercial front this decade, Róisín Murphy’s second solo album is among the most inexplicable damp squibs. The ex-Moloko frontwoman may have shed the avant-garde experimentalism of her solo debut Ruby Blue in favour of full-on disco diva mode, set against a backdrop of thumping, shimmering state-of-the-art production, but it seems the world wasn’t ready to accept even Murphy’s toned down personality quirks. That’s a real shame for although Overpowered is not without its flaws, there is a sense of playful grandeur here that can easily toe the line with Goldfrapp at their most teasing.

Chris Catchpole

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sounding off: october 2009 (i)

A little later than usual this month, here’s a little roundup of some of the releases we didn’t get time to review in full over the last 6 weeks. In this first of four parts, we take a look at Julie Doiron’s latest side venture, a folk trio called Daniel, Fred & Julie, plus new releases from Shona Foster and Bebel Gilberto.

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Daniel, Fred & Julie
Daniel, Fred & Julie •••½
You’ve Changed

Arriving without fanfare of any kind, this latest venture from Canadian indie icon Julie Doiron is a sweet and entirely unpretentious album of traditional and trad-leaning folk. With Attack In Black’s Dan Romano and her regular musical cohort Fred Squire playing the Peter and Paul to Doiron’s Mary Travers, this 10-track album was recorded off the cuff in Doiron’s garage in August and has been available at recent live shows as a covetable 10” vinyl. Vocal duties are split equitably between the three musicians, and given the unrehearsed, spontaneous nature of these acoustic recordings, are just as beautifully arranged on instinct as they could have been with more planning.

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julie doiron: i can wonder what you did with your day (2009)
March 13, 2009, 8:55 am
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Julie Doiron
I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day ••½

In 2007, Guardian columnist and professional grump Charlie Brooker discussed the trend of ‘tweetronising’ television commercials. “You can spot a tweetronising commercial a mile off ,” he wrote. “It’ll have a modern folk music backing track, a cast of non-threatening urban hippy replicants, and a drowsy hello-birds-hello-sky overall attitude that makes you want to chase it down an alleyway and kick it until the police arrive.” But we can be tweetronised by media other than television. If you dare to read the horribly facetious blurb on the label of an Innocent smoothie, for example, you’ll be given a potentially toxic dose of tweetronisation.

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julie doiron to release split single…with herself

040309_juliedoironFirst release from her new band Calm Down It’s Monday

Fresh from last year’s collaboration with Phil Elverum’s Mount Eerie, Julie Doiron and Fred Squire have formed a new duo called Calm Down It’s Monday, and will release their debut single on May 5th as a split with Doiron herself.

One side will feature a solo song from Julie and the other a song from Calm Down It’s Monday, and marks the 120th entry in K Records’ famous series of International Pop Underground mail order 7″ vinyl releases. 

Speaking to Canadian website ChartAttack.com last week, Julie says that she and Fred expect to have the new band’s debut album complete within the next week or so. Hear two tracks – ‘Sweetest May’ and ‘Bike Thief’ – on the duo’s Myspace.

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free music friday: julie doiron
January 23, 2009, 10:05 am
Filed under: free music friday, mp3, review | Tags: , , , ,

170708_juliedoironJulie Doiron
‘Consolation Prize’

Canadian singer-songwriter Julie Doiron has long been a cult indie icon but, as with so many other Canadian acts, her career has seemingly gone from strength to strength in the last few years. After spending much of the decade collaborating with all and sundry, appearing on albums by The Tragically Hip, Herman Düne and Okkervil River (as well as recording some great solo albums), her 2007 release Woke Myself Up saw her reuniting with her former Eric’s Trip bandmates for the first time in 11 years and the album received widespread critical acclaim and a Polaris Prize nomination. That led to an apparent rekindling of Julie’s creative energies and optimism; through well-received reunion tours and working closely with producer / Eric’s Trip mainstay Rick White on a new suite of songs, something remarkable has happened. Julie Doiron has woken herself up for real.

On hearing the title alone, ‘Consolation Prize’ seems as though it could bear all the traits for which the first lady of sadcore has become known, but instantly you’ll notice the difference. Julie’s chugging, growling electric guitar skulks all over the track as Fred Squire’s cantering drumbeat drives the song right into its massively distorted middle third, where Julie’s electric playing collides with the sound of breaking glass and an alarm clock. The melody is strong – real, singalong strong! – and it really doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s exhilaratingly short, in fact. The brand new album I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day is out on March 9th. MP3 after the jump.

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albums of the year: readers poll results (part II of V)

Albums of the year: #40–31


In Case Of Emergency

Released: February 2008

What we said then: “Drawing inspiration from Kate Bush (out on the wily, windy moors no less!), Tim Buckley, Thomas Tallis, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and even Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, In Case Of Emergency blossoms out from beneath its touchstones like a snowdrop blinking into the winter sun. Though its setting might be more Hackney Heights than Wuthering Heights, the music of Madam comes from a highly instinctive place.” Alan Pedder [feature interview]

What we say now: Widely hailed as a noir-pop masterpiece upon its release, In Case Of Emergency‘s filmic Americana with a futuristic twist has really gone the distance for us this year. When the lights are low and there’s contemplative thinking to be done, Madam’s prodigious debut is a comfortingly mysterious opus. Written in almost total isolation, Sukie Smith’s introspective tales have been finished off in the studio to improbably perfect detail, each conveying its intended mood like shimmering tendrils gripping your heart. It’s Françoiz Breut meets The Last Town Chorus on the set of ‘Twin Peaks’, and a dark delight from head to (the sting in its) tail.

Download: ‘Strange Love’, ‘Super Fast Highway’

iTunes £7.99



Those Dancing Days
In Our Space Hero Suits

Released: October 2008

What we said then: In Our Space Hero Suits is unabashedly fun, cheerfully carefree, unpretentious, and a delight for any record collection. Each of the 12 songs is a whirring, toe-tapping slice of radio-friendly pop, with a streak of playful, girly attitude. Their sound, primarily guitar- and keyboard-led, draws on retro pop and Northern soul, but it’s the fast paced drums that keep the rhythms dancing. Musically, Those Dancing Days evoke both the disco-friendly pop of Blondie and gentle, ’50s style garage rock, with lead vocalist Linnea Jönsson’s unique voice imbuing a soulful passion into every song.” •••½ Charlotte Richardson Andrews [full review]

What we say now: In a post-Pipettes world, there are plenty of ways in which to get a retro girlgroup pop fix. But while bands like The Revelations fall embarrassingly flat (too obvious, too vacant), Those Dancing Days are dizzyingly fun in that particularly Swedish way, still sashaying their way through our winter days with rainbow-tinted harmonies and an energising tonic of northern soul brightness.

Download: ‘Home Sweet Home’, ‘Hitten’

iTunes £7.99



Blood, Looms & Blooms

Released: June 2008

What we said then: “Leila Arab last graced the music world 8 years ago with Courtesy Of Choice, her ‘difficult’ second album that hid its few instant classics deep behind a lot of awkward obstructions. Following up her acclaimed debut, Like Weather, was never going to be easy, but on reflection even that album had its slightly awkward moments. Blood, Looms & Blooms is the kind of triumphant comeback that her ’90s contemporaries would give their iMacs for nowadays. It’s rare for years of patience to be rewarded with such a competent, coherent and simply chilling body of work like this, let alone one that can swoon, thump and groove all at the same time. Fingers crossed we will not have to wait as long for album #4, but Blood, Looms & Blooms lingers on with an atmosphere of absolute triumph and a notion that only now is Leila really getting started.” ••••• Léigh Bartlam [full review]

What we say now: Blood, Looms & Blooms has lost none of its power to unsettle and amaze in the 6 months since its release. If anything, it has grown in stature as our admiration has swollen to match its creator’s astonishing ambition. On a purely artistic level if not spectacle, this could well be 2008’s greatest comeback record.

Download: ‘Why Should I?’, ‘Deflect’

FREE MP3: Leila feat. Khemahl and Thaon Richardson, ‘Little Acorns
FREE MP3: Leila feat. Terry Hall, Time To Blow

iTunes £7.99



Nicole Atkins
Neptune City

Released: June 2008

What we said then: “Produced by Tore Johansson (Saint Etienne, Franz Ferdinand) and mixed by Rick Rubin, Neptune City is a sparkling evocation of pure ambition and impeccable musicianship. Nicole Atkins has come to admire and draw inspiration from tales of despair, desperation and want. Nothing new, you might say, but the measure of her talent is to take these stories and turn them into something new, something inspiring and, most importantly, something hopeful. Her enchanting and powerful voice bedazzles and moves to such an extent that it cries out to be listened to again and again and again. Neptune City is an unmissable first step in what will hopefully be a lengthy career.” ••••• Anja McCloskey [full review]

What we say now: Woefully misunderstood by many reviewers upon its eventual UK release, Neptune City is a far, far better record than you may have read elsewhere. We may have been a little overzealous in awarding it a whopping five stars but Atkins is a phenomenally talented songwriter and live performer who deserves reappraising. ‘Maybe Tonight’ wasn’t the best choice of first single, admittedly, but there’s a rich seam of gold to be found in the album as a whole. Investigate.

Download: ‘War Torn’, ‘Neptune City’

iTunes £5.99



Jolie Holland
The Living & The Dead

Released: October 2008

What we said then: “Continuing her search for herself, Holland battles the fairly typical demons of relationships and the daily struggle to keep on keeping on, but what sets her apart from everyone else is that she makes you want to love her; it’s an auditory cycle of courtship, candlelight, and a swift kick on the ass as she sends you packing once again. The sultry slur of syllables allows for a classic country feel, while the sometimes stunning lo-fi production provides the perfect setting for both a romantic dinner, so long as you aren’t paying close attention to the lyrics. Though at times her songs seem to blend together a little too easily, it feels as if it is purposeful in order to provide the listener with subtle transitions for the storyline she has provided.” •••• Chris Margolin [full review]

What we say now: As tough as it is to get past opener ‘Mexico City’ without hitting repeat, the rest of The Living & The Dead is stuffed with rueful songwriting brilliance that rarely fails to dazzle entirely. From brilliantly observed character studies with a country-rock flavour (‘Corrdio Por Buddy’, ‘Palmyra’) to ghostly mantras for lonely living (‘Fox In Its Hole’), it’s Holland’s finest record to date and displays a growing confidence that’s hard to forget once heard. 

Download: ‘Mexico City’, ‘Fox In Its Hole’;

iTunes £7.99



Mary Hampton
My Mother’s Children

Released: August 2008

It’s shameful that we never got around to reviewing this album properly because Mary Hampton is the kind of artist that’s well worth making time for. My Mother’s Children, her first release through Reveal Records offshoot Navigator, is a stunning collection of ten frighteningly accomplished (and sometimes frighteningly frightening) songs of ageless beauty. Germinated from seeds of traditional folk chimerically ambiguated with psych-folk references, Mary Hampton’s music is miles away from the likes of Kate Rusby and Eliza Carthy (with whom she once worked). Tellingly, she was once the voice of Stereolab offshoot Imitation Electric Piano, going some way to explain why much of this album seems so daringly experimental among its genre. Rife with unusual imagery, much of it concerning wildlife – an eel screaming before it is skinned, dying stags, taxidermied dogs – Hampton weaves her mesmerising surrealist tales with unnerving expertise, making even songs about the heavens and trees seem subterranean and exquisitely gothic. “There’s no way off the island,” sings Mary with an eerie menace, and she’s right, we’re snared.

Download: ‘Because You’re Young’, ‘Ballad Of The Talking Dog’

iTunes £7.90



Mount Eerie with Julie Doiron & Fred Squire
Lost Wisdom
PW Elverum & Sun

Released: October 2008

Julie Doiron is the undisputed queen of sadcore, and on Lost Wisdom, Mount Eerie frontman Phil Elverum proves himself to be a worthy king. “These rocks don’t care if I live or die,” they sing in unison on the opening title track, setting a bleak yet beguiling tone for the rest of the album. We’re so used to hype surrounding unlikely duets – Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan – that the sheer beauty of hearing two so perfectly matched collaborators is oddly surprising. Doiron’s more accessible brand of melancholic lo-fi channels a wonderfully effective warmth and feminine delicacy into songs that might otherwise collapse beneath their own oppressive questioning gloom. Not just a third wheel, Fred Squire provides a sensitive and minimal backdrop of electric guitar that’s especially effective on songs like ‘O My Heart’ and ‘Voice In Headphones’, a remarkable song that interpolates the refrain of Björk’s ‘Undo’ (“it’s not meant to be a strife / it’s not meant to be a struggle uphill”) with Elverum’s own lyrics. Still, it’s probably a blessing that all but two of the ten songs run at less than two and a half minutes. Despite its simplicity, or perhaps because of, Lost Wisdom is vital yet uncomfortable and prolonged, uninterrupted exposure is probably unhealthy. Go outside, breathe in some air, come back and listen anew.

Download: ‘Voice In Headphones’, ‘What?’

iTunes £7.90



Thea Gilmore

Released: May 2008

What we said then: “The pointed political commentary and strident music industry critiques that characterised (or, depending on your perspective, marred) some of her earlier records have been tempered somewhat here, with Gilmore centering her attention on matters of the heart and, for the most part, leaving wider social concerns aside. (In her terms, the record’s focus is “politics with a small ‘p’.”) Stylistically, the album also finds Gilmore experimenting with some new instrumentation – dobro, ukulele, harmonium, mandolin – and recruiting some well-chosen collaborators, including Joan Baez, Erin McKeown, John Kirkpatrick, Steve Wickham of The Waterboys and The Zutons’ Dave McCabe. The result is an album with an organic, rootsy, often bluesy feel, a little less spiky than some of Gilmore’s output but never less than vibrant and appealing, and boosted by her clear, direct, unaffected vocals and consistently compelling songwriting.” •••• Alex Ramon [full review]

What we say now: Like the Jolie Holland album, Liejacker starts off so strongly that it’s tempting to cue up endless auditions of opener (and first single) ‘Old Soul’, without question one of Gilmore’s finest songs to date. Dave McCabe is a sensitive and engaging vocal foil, moreso even than Joan Baez on ‘The Lower Road’, and we can only hope for a repeat of this pairing in the future. Liejacker doesn’t quite carry its initial momentum all the way through but it’s as strong, if not stronger, than 2006’s Harpo’s Ghost, and maintains Gilmore’s status as one of our nation’s finest singer-songwriters, male or female.

Download: ‘Old Soul’, ‘Dance In New York’

iTunes £7.99



The Breeders
Mountain Battles

Released: March 2008

What we said then:Mountain Battles may be incredibly restrained but its quality control is consistent. It simply offers a more low-key collection of songs (cue the unsurprising involvement of producer Steve Albini). Still, it’s difficult not to wonder when listening to songs like ‘Night Of Joy’ and first single ‘We’re Gonna Rise’ how this record could have sounded if The Breeders had held back a little less. Although far from being the product of a band experiencing any kind of creative slump, it’s easy to see why Mountain Battles doesn’t satisfy the hunger of some of their fans. There’s a definite feeling that this release merely consists of crumbs brushed from the table rather than the hearty meal The Breeders are more than capable of serving up.” ••½ Sophia Rawlinson [full review]

What we say now: Oof, we were a bit unkind about this album, and to be honest listening to it again now remains a somewhat frustrating experience. Evidently there are charms that were slow to reveal themselves, but too many songs just go nowhere interesting to these ears. But you voted it here so who are we to argue? With their live show by all accounts still a riot of thrills and their upcoming shot at curating an All Tomorrow’s Parties weekend, there’s plenty of mileage in The Breeders yet, and maybe Mountain Battles too.

Download: ‘German Studies’, ‘Walk It Off’

iTunes £7.99



Autumn Fallin’

Released: January 2008

What we said then: “There is something wondrously serene about the music Jaymay makes, as if she had discovered the musical formula for tranquility. This is an album to collapse at home to at the end of the day, when you can just lie face down and fully clothed on your bed and relax for a moment, sighing happily to yourself. Jaymay has created an album whose charms are difficult to define. Autumn Fallin’ might not take us to new and unexplored reaches of the musical continuum, but it is such a pleasure to listen to that I can quite happily say that, in this case, I don’t even care. This is blissful stuff.” •••• Hugh Armitage [full review]

What we say now: There’s a bit of controversy over whether or not this is a 2007 album, to which the answer is kinda, but not really. It was available from Rough Trade shops for a couple of months at the end of last year but the full physical release rolled over to January. Hope that explanation suffices, because Autumn Fallin’ ain’t budging from our list. We’ve really grown to love this album in our office. She may not be the mother of invention but Jaymay’s coolly conversational way with a wryly observed lyric is achingly smart and refreshing. An excellent, if underappreciated debut.

Download: ‘Sea Green, See Blue’, ‘Ill Willed Person’

iTunes £4.99

trouser press: jenny lewis, julie doiron and more

– Jenny Lewis cuts loose her Acid Tongue in September
– Julie Doiron to release collaborative album with Phil Elvrum
– is Miley Cyrus a Britney in waiting?
– ‘Heroes’ actress to release an album
– Joan Osborne gets wild on new album
– Natalie Cole reveals she has Hepatitis C

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After a brief return to the Rilo Kiley fold for last year’s Under The Blacklight, Jenny Lewis releases her second solo album, Acid Tongue, in September through major label Warner Bros. In place of The Watson Twins, Lewis has recruited the likes of Elvis Costello (who duets on ‘Carpetbaggers’), Zooey Deschanel and M Ward (aka She & Him), Johnathan Rice and various members of The Black Crowes, Beachwood Sparks, A Perfect Circle and Elvis Costello’s Imposters, as well as her own sister and her dad. If the quality of songs is anything like fan favourite ‘Jack Killed Mom’, Acid Tongue looks likely to be an unanticipated addition to this year’s best.

Acid Tongue
01 Black Sand
02 Pretty Bird
03 The Next Messiah
04 Bad Man’s World
05 Acid Tongue
06 See Fernando
07 Godspeed
08 Carpetbaggers
09 Trying My Best To Love You
10 Jack Killed Mom
11 Sing A Song for Them

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